I don’t know what to say tonight. I’m out of frustrated exclamations, and this is no time for upbeat speeches. All that’s left, I suppose, is resignation.
Resignation that day after day, we allow runs in unusual fashion, whether on phantom strikeouts or outfield errors, that ultimately end up costing us the game.
Resignation that we continue to smoke the ball, and it continues to find opposing fielders’ gloves. Cespedes, Wright, Conforto, Granderson. All hit the ball right on the nose tonight. All were fielded by defenders somehow, one way or another, in the right place to stop a screaming line drive.
And ultimately, resignation that, try as we might, even we are not immune to bad periods. We’ve lost three straight, two that we could have won but simply didn’t. We haven’t been awful: we haven’t been great, but we’ve hit the ball hard, while our opponents have snuck grounders into the outfield and reached base after dubiously fouling off third strikes.
What can you possibly say, when a good team doesn’t look so good? You can’t say that we’re getting unlucky; it seems like you’re excusing bad play, making excuses for a team that might not be so good after all. But right now, that’s exactly what’s happening to us: we’re just getting unlucky.
I know this with just as much confidence as I know we’ll turn it around eventually. We’re hitting the ball hard; our lineup is dangerous from top to near-bottom; our pitching staff, while perhaps not the vaunted collection of aces we dreamed of over the offseason, is still formidable. We will win.
The Phillies pulled ahead of us tonight with another one-run victory. The Phillies have been our polar opposite: it was clear in the six games we played them. They hit the ball, and it finds the grass for a hit. They give up a deep fly ball, and it’s caught at the track. They give up 12 runs, they score one: they give up three runs, they score four.
Their run differential is in the neighborhood of -26. They should be substantially below .500. They won’t last as contenders, irksome as they may be.
Even the most angry Mets fan has to be able to see, even after tonight, that we’re better than the Phillies have any shot at being. Hell, to me, we’re better than the Nationals. And we will return to the top of the division: you can quote me on that. It didn’t look like that tonight, or yesterday, or the day before. But we’ve got 126 games left to play, and with the talent we’ve got, they’ll go better than the first 36 have.
And what’s more, we saw some good things tonight. David Wright seeing the ball well for two hits, working the count every at-bat. Cespedes batting four times, and hitting the ball hard four times, twice for hits. Walker homering again. Conforto hitting the ball well three times, despite only one hit. The bullpen keeping things scoreless again.
All the pieces are there, and nothing but bad luck and statistical flukiness has kept them from operating simultaneously so far. But eventually, they will — sooner, I like to think, than later. Against the Nationals, maybe they’ll start. The bullpen will keep doing what it’s doing; the line drives will fall in for hits; the starting pitching will regroup and pitch like it’s capable of doing; the defense will keep being solid.
We’ll come home to face the Nationals needing a sweep to take back our division, after some ugly losses to west coast teams. Where have I heard that before?